The New Zealand context is probably similar to the global one. The political and economic cycles and constant tension between public and private interests have been the focus, while economic growth has been assumed. The environment, long-term sustainability and resilience, have until recently been an afterthought.
Making more sense at the edges (Regions and organisations).
A wide variety of, but I would argue not irreconcilable conditions, exist within the institutions we live and work in:
- Some regions, cities and towns have declared a Climate emergency, while others refuse to acknowledge that there is an issue.
- Companies set up sustainability teams and then position them within the marketing and public relations groups - with little or no operational influence.
- Universities promote and deliver courses and degrees that, under scrutiny would seem to be supporting industries or activities that contribute to future emissions.
- Organisations that make little or no effort to re-engineer their operations or business for the long term, while opting to purchase carbon offsets for the short term.
- Faced with the need to re-engineer or transform their organisations, leaders defaulting to self-preservation over what is best for the 'whole' and the long-term.
Most problems have a history and are path dependent in some way.
Most of everything that has made us successful in the past is probably contributing to the problems we face now, having been built on or part of a system that relies on fossil fuel and large amounts of excess energy.
We have already used the best grades of fossil fuel and natural resources and this has a flow-through effect on our large institutions, economies, professions and jobs.
The arrival of Covid-19 could be a catalyst for the transition to a low CO2 emissions future state, but there are forces mounting against this.
Which all brings me to my final point - how to be part of the solution (without having authority):
We can focus on:
1. Doing what is right - In the 'now'
With the future in mind, minimise emissions, consumption and waste. (Remember the CO2 and non bio-degradable material is cumulative). While at a personal level there are many actions we can take immediately, a scientific and engineering based approach may be required for long term, complex transitions.
2. Being a person or organisation to trust.
This is a place where you know yourself and will find others that are trust-worthy. But this can take time and effort. All change and innovation come at a price, it is an easier journey when we have good people around us.
3. Being part of a solution focused community of interest and/or expertise.
As the anthropologist Margaret Meade said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Innovating, creating knowledge and evidence and generating motivation and momentum, is better done together. We don't need anyone's permission or
authority to create the organisations we want and need.
4. Working with empathy.
It can be difficult to know if we are part of the problem. From our perspective we might see what someone is doing as a problem, they probably do not. Under threat, it is human nature to avoid, deny, deflect, blame or attack. Empathy is required. Tailoring our approach, framing communications, engaging to build trust, awareness and mutual understanding - are all part of
The edges are where things happen. It is where we can tell stories, have conversations, point things out, experiment and share problems and solutions. The edge is where individuals and small groups like us can make a real difference.